Welcome to the Horror of Neo-Soviet Russia
When you click the jump, you will see an image of the leather trench coat that was worn by officers of the NKVD, the organization that became the KGB and is now the FSB (the organization has twice been required to change its name to try to ward off its disgraceful past). The NKVD, like their successors, were responsible for horrific crimes against the people of Russia and were a legion of goons that terrorized the country in order to support the Stalin dictatorship. They were integral in carrying out one of the most infamous crimes against humanity in world history, the Katyn massacre in 1940 Poland.
Alexei Bayer, writing in the Moscow Times:
The current Kremlin team exemplifies an American saying: They were born on third base but believe they hit a triple. After a decade of record oil prices, Russian leaders became convinced that their enlightened policies turned Russia into a robust economic power on par with the Group of Seven. They came to believe that oil and gas give Russia enormous political and economic leverage.
Having touted Russia as a safe haven in the global financial crisis, they were caught off guard when the crisis hit home. As they frantically search for a solution, they may exacerbate the damage and, in a worst-case scenario, destroy Russia’s private sector.
Paul Goble, writing in the Moscow Times:
A lot of attention was focused on the symbolic importance when Russian forces occupied Gori, the birthplace of Stalin. Few reflected, however, that this conflict, like many others in the post-Soviet states, is the product of what many in business call “poison pills,” arrangements that make it difficult, if not dangerous, for anyone to try to takeover or even change the basic arrangements of another firm.
If the peoples of the region and the international community are to overcome this crisis and the others that are clearly on the horizon in this part of the world, they need to understand the nature and location of the poison pills Stalin inserted in his system and the dangers of swallowing them.
Paul Goble has published an extremely important analysis showing how Boris Yeltsin “laid the foundations for Putinism” and how Vladimir Putin is laying the foundations for something “even worse” — dare we call it “Neo-Sovietism”? Such a policy, of course, portends Russia’s utter implosion, just as occurred in the USSR. Goble warns that many in Russia itself understand the risk that places like Chechnya will now use this precedent to demand enforced separation from Russia, and even relations with places like Serbia have now been damaged.
Boris Yeltsin’s support for the rise of the oligarchs and the latter’s decision to turn to the siloviki in order to protect themselves from any challenge from the people laid the foundations for Vladimir Putin to construct his increasingly authoritarian regime, according to the leader of the liberal Yabloko party. But as depressing as that trend has been, several recen tarticles in the Russian press called attention to the appearance of a new history textbook for Russian school children which argues that Stalin’s terror was justified as “an instrument of development,” a message which suggests Putin has plans for an even more draconian system than the one he oversees now.
Mass murder is so sexy!
Writing in Prospect magazine Arkady Ostrovsky, Moscow bureau chief of the Economist magazine, tells us about “flirting with Stalin” and the horror of life in neo-Soviet Russia:
“Dear friends! The textbook you are holding in your hands is dedicated to the history of our Motherland… from the end of the Great Patriotic War to our days. We will trace the journey of the Soviet Union from its greatest historical triumph to its tragic disintegration.”
This greeting is addressed to hundreds of thousands of Russian schoolchildren who will in September receive a new history textbook printed by the publishing house Enlightenment and approved by the ministry of education. “The Soviet Union,” the new textbook explains, “was not a democracy, but it was an example for millions of people around the world of the best and fairest society.” Furthermore, over the past 70 years, the USSR, “a gigantic superpower which managed a social revolution and won the most cruel of wars,” effectively put pressure on western countries to give due regard to human rights. In the early part of the 21st century, continues the textbook, the west has been hostile to Russia and pursued a policy of double standards.
Had it not been for Vladimir Putin’s involvement, this book would probably have never seen the light of day. In 2007, Putin, then Russian president, gathered a group of history teachers to talk about his vision of the past. “We can’t allow anyone to impose a sense of guilt on us,” was his message.
The author, left, with his cousin Vakhtang, the conductor
Redjeb Jordania, the musician, writing in the Washington Post:
I cannot help being anxious about what’s happening to Georgia. My daughter is in Tbilisi with my grandson. Her husband, Sandro Kvitashvili, is the minister of health and social services. I don’t know how dangerous his job is each day, whether he is on the streets, possibly exposed to gunfire. I don’t know how he will cope with all the dead and wounded, how he is helping the refugees. All humanitarian activities are his responsibility, and Russia has blocked many of the routes necessary to transport goods. My daughter communicates with me online and assures me that Tbilisi is relatively calm. She thinks that she is not in danger. But there are frequent disruptions to our connections, and I would worry even if there were not.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar explains that people who saw them both up close know very well that Stalinsim was just as bad as Nazism.
Last week Russia furiously attacked President Bush for his proclamation on Captive Nations Week (July 20-July 26), which was established to raise awareness of countries living under communist and other oppressive regimes. Mr. Bush said that, “In the 20th century, the evils of Soviet communism and Nazi fascism were defeated and freedom spread around the world as new democracies emerged.”
The Economist reports:
Paranoia and exhibitionism, two of the defining characteristics of the Soviet system, make a nasty mix. It was the Soviet Union’s desire to crow over depression-stricken America that encouraged it to let hundreds of workers, desperate for jobs and a new start in life, immigrate there in the early 1930s. Exactly how many nobody knows; almost all ended up in mass graves. Initially lauded as welcome refugees from the miseries of capitalism (and as useful specialists who might help replicate the bits of it that worked, such as factories) from 1935 onwards they became enemies of the people, infiltrators and spies. A tiny handful, such as Paul Robeson, a singer, were tolerated as propaganda trophies. The rest sank into a living Hades of torture, rape, slave labour, starvation, frostbite and death, shared with millions of others.
The horrors of the Gulag ought to be as well known as Auschwitz, but they aren’t. Tim Tzouliadis includes many of them in his sprawling narrative. His statistics are sometimes sloppy and he seems barely aware that for most of its people the Soviet Union was already a hell-hole, even when the American workers were happily playing baseball in Gorky Park.